By Shaun Smillie |IOL|
For six and half years Jurgen Vandekeere kept one step ahead of police and private investigators, but finally it was his father who ended his run and encouraged him to hand himself in.
Vandekeere arrived at the Benoni police station with his father and lawyer, nearly nine years after he was accused of raping and murdering 20-year-old Chantelle Barnard.
At times investigators believed they were close to arresting the Belgian, but he always gave them the slip. What made the hunt difficult, private investigators believe, was that Vandekeere had help from friends and family.
His rearrest has, according to private investigator Mike Bolhuis, finally bought some closure to Chantelle’s family.
“The family are elated about this,” said Bolhuis who was hired by the Barnards to find Vandekeere.
Bolhuis explained that over the last couple of months there had been increased pressure on finding Vandekeere, and this had paid off.
“I think the penny dropped, and he realised he couldn’t hide anymore,” said Bolhuis.
“I think he made the decision after a discussion with his father. I think his father played a major role in convincing him to get a solicitor and hand himself in.”
Vandekeere was arrested in April 2011 after Chantelle’s body was found in a house in Brentwood Park, Benoni.
Police established that she had been raped, her throat cut and her body washed.
In 2012, Vandekeere was released on a R20000 bail and in September 2013, he failed to appear in the Delmas High Court. A warrant of arrest was issued.
A month later, Vandekeere was allegedly spotted at Maputo International Airport, in Mozambique, by members of the media. It was believed he caught a flight to Kenya and then on to Europe.
Deon Pieterse, another private investigator hired to find the fugitive, believes that Vandekeere ended up in Amsterdam after he entered the Netherlands using a fake passport.
Some time later, it is believed, Vanderkeere came back to South Africa.
“Several times I came close to find him, but I think he was getting help from relatives,” said Pieterse.
Bolhuis said that at one stage they believed that Vandeere was visiting his father’s house, on the East Rand. “So we staked out his father’s house for quite some time but to no avail.”
With Vandekeere back behind bars, Bolhuis and his team were hoping to soon visit him. They hoped that he might reveal more about his time on the run, and possibly insight into the crime he is alleged to have committed.
Vandekeere appeared in court yesterday on a charge of murder.
“He has been remanded in custody at the Pretoria High Court and will appear again on the 27th of March at the same court,” said police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.